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Ho Ho Ho, Santa Claus arrives in Japan after COVID hiatus

Santa Claus and Finnair flight crew members wave their hands upon arriving at Narita International Airport from Finland, in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, on Dec. 2, 2022. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

NARITA, Chiba -- After a long journey from Finland, Santa Claus arrived at Narita International Airport near Tokyo on Dec. 2 for the first time in three years.

    Wearing a red hat and vest, Santa with his trademark white beard walked down a boarding ramp from an aircraft while waving his hand. "Merry Christmas," he shouted, while adding that he was looking forward to his trip to tell the much-loved Japanese people the importance of compassion for others.

    Santa's visit to Japan was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Shuri Nishikubo, 9, a third grader who lives in Osaka, had a commemorative photo with Santa taken at the airport's arrival lobby. "I'm so happy. I want a lot of snacks for Christmas," she said.

    Santa Claus, officially recognized by Finland's Santa Claus Foundation, has visited Japan by flying with Finnair instead of on a sleigh pulled by reindeer since about 30 years ago. During his stay in the country until Dec. 6, he will attend events in Tokyo and Yamanashi Prefecture, among other places, and will visit a welfare facility in the city of Chiba.

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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